One of my favorite authors, Jeff Pearlman, is about to release a new book. It is a biography about one of my favorite NFL players, Walter Payton.
I haven’t read the book yet. No one has, except for Pearlman and his editors because it hasn’t been released yet. However, due to an excerpt that was printed in Sports Illustrated, some people are slamming Pearlman because he has included some information he discovered about Payton that depicts him as having flaws. Notably, being unfaithful to his wife and being addicted to pain killers.
Two notable malcontents are Mike Ditka and Michael Wilbon. No one should be shocked that Ditka is upset. Good coaches protect their players. This doesn’t change when the games end and those involved start spending the majority of their time on golf courses and in television studios.
But Wilbon? A fellow journalist? In a column penned for ESPN.com, he stated he doesn’t understand the purpose of writing this book. Check out my initial reaction to Wilbon’s piece…
“I’m surprised a fellow journalist would rush to judgement without reading the entire book. Aren’t you guys supposed to gather all of the facts before making a judgement on something? How much say did Pearlman have in what SI printed as far as the excerpt is concerned? Not much I would imagine.
Biographies of public figures have been around as long as man could print. Pearlman’s motive was to write about someone who interested him. It was published because others might think it is interesting. Seems simple enough to me.
Did you question him for writing about Clemens, Bonds, or the 1986 Mets? Nope. This time it’s different, because it’s one of your “boys” as you and Tony say.“
This whole debate leads to a greater issue. Our tendency to expect famous athletes, or anyone famous for that matter, to be super human or perfect. Some want to shut their eyes and close their ears when information is released about the things they struggle with in life. Others want to hunt for anything to knock our “heroes” off their pedestal.
I don’t understood either side of the spectrum. The bottom line is that there isn’t a single perfect person on this planet. Life is all about dealing with and attempting to overcome the individual trials we face. At the end of the game, if we truly try to overcome, our trophy is getting to be with God in heaven, the only one that is perfect and has the right to judge us.
Sounds simple, but we all know it isn’t. In fact, it’s hard as hell and gets the better of us much of the time.
As far as Pearlman goes, I believe his motive was to write a thorough biography. He worked for three years on this book and interviewed over 600 people. I have a feeling there will be plenty inside highlighting the great things that Walter Payton had accomplished as a human being.
Eventually, I will read Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton and I’ll celebrate the great things Payton accomplished and try to learn from the trials he faced.